Virtually every household in the U.S. contains some household hazardous waste. This would include common items like pesticides/fertilizers, household cleaning products and motor oil. These types of chemicals are prohibited from being disposed of in the municipal waste system as well as in most rented dumpsters. Disposing properly of household hazardous waste is critical to the health of the environment as well as our own health.
The EPA states that it’s not only important to avoid throwing hazardous household waste in with regular household trash, but it’s equally important to avoid dumping these chemicals into sewers, storm drains and illegal dump sites. Chemicals can easily leach into groundwater we drink, and it negatively affects fish and other wildlife.
Common Household Hazard Waste
Paint cans (including empty ones with residual residue)
Batteries (small alkaline batteries may be thrown in the trash but only in small quantities)
Any type of automotive fluid
Bug and pest spray/killers
How Big is the Problem?
You may think that tossing a few quarts of used motor oil or a couple nearly-empty paint cans into the trash won’t make any sort of impact on the environment, but you’re dead wrong.
According to the Office of Waste Management at the University of Missouri, 192 million gallons of used motor oil is improperly disposed of each year in the U.S. alone. It also states that just one gallon of used motor oil can contaminate one million gallons of water. So, those few quarts of oil you toss in the bin actually do make a big impact on the health of the environment.
How to Properly Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste
So, if you can’t throw it in the garbage can or dumpster, where do you dispose of it? Most communities offer household hazardous waste collection days set aside for collecting toxic waste. Contact your local waste authority to find out the details.
These local collection events are extremely successful at eliminating hazardous waste from the municipal waste system. A small New Hampshire community has hosted several of these collections this summer. Nearly 19,000 toxic chemicals were collected during the events, and 1,750 households participated in the event, according to the UnionLeader.com.
Other options are also available for certain items. For example, motor oil can be recycled at most local instant oil change centers. Lead-acid batteries (automobile batteries) can be dropped off at the place of purchase, or most auto-parts stores, for proper disposal. Other disposal options may be available in your community or through your local trash hauler.
If you have bulk household hazardous waste to dispose of, contact a local dumpster rental provider to find out your options.